Great Stuff — Linkage on Youth, Gatherings, and Music

Found over on Outer Rim Territories:


pnglivelovedcolorIn San Antonio, the LCMS is putting on its triennial National Youth Gathering. I’ve caught a couple of the live streams and have been musing on what I’ve seen. It has been largely consistent from what I remember of the last San Antonio event that I attended twelve years ago.

You can take in the materials and watch live video here: I’ll leave it to you to decide whether such gatherings are helpful or harmful to life in the parish and the life of faith. You can watch the replays of Monday and Tuesday here:

Pr. Borghardt posted a video for Higher Things on “Worship and Youth Ministry.” His little video is helpful in understanding why youth conferences and gatherings should resemble and build up the life of the local congregation.

Pr. Sawyer wondered about the distinction between “worship” and “mass events.” Pr. Wilken picked up on the same question here with many helpful comments on both sides of the aisle.

Pr. Peters linked to an article by James K.A. Smith called: An Open Letter to Praise Bands.

  1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.
  2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship.
  3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.

Be sure also to read Smith’s “Postscript.”

Pr. Juhl linked to a thought provoking article from David Fitch entitled: “Why Do American Christians Prefer Big?” In short:

  1. Big is seen as a sign God is there.
  2. A celebrity pastor/teacher is a known quantity.
  3. Big church is less messy.

Pr. Fisk did a video summary of the 2010 National Youth Gathering and the sociological research about “moralistic therapeutic deism.” It’s worth your consideration:

Take Home More God – YouTube.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — Linkage on Youth, Gatherings, and Music — 89 Comments

  1. Jim Pierce :@“LC-MS Quotes” #38 Yes, think and meditate on the word of God, but that doesn’t mean we are barred from listening to certain forms of music and certain lyrical content.

    Actually, the lyrical content is the real dividing line here. Songs with evil lyrics should not be listened to for enjoyment by a Christian. In addition to Philippians 4:8, consider Psalm 101:3.

    Note that I am not on the same page as “LCMS-Quotes” here. There’s nothing sinful about a style of music. And the “weaker brother” argument does seem pietistic. The IFB use it often.

    But certainly you would not consider Chris Rosebrough to be a pietist for questioning the genuineness of Insane Clown Posse’s professed Christian faith after examining the murderous song lyrics for which they have not repented:

    And make no mistake, they do claim to be Christians:

    Would you consider a man who enjoyed listening to the above ICP song to be a genuine Christian just because he claimed to be? Do not forget Romans 6:1-4.

  2. @Nicholas #1


    I am certainly NOT defending the entirety of lyrical content that comes out of rock. And, this is actually illustrative of the error in “Quotes” arguments as pointed out by Quasicelsus.

  3. Pietism. A 17th-century movement within the Lutheran Church of Germany aiming to correct the evils of “dead orthodoxy” by means of a more emotional Christianity; overemphasis on emotionalism, affected devotion.

    Walter Lieder
    Lutheran Dictionary
    CPH, 1952

    Pietism. The movement within Lutheranism that started in the seventeenth century; emphasized personal piety over doctrinal correctness. This movement expected members to refrain from frivolous entertainment and focus purely on personal spiritual improvement. It saw biblical doctrine as less important than “a religion of the heart.”

    Lutheranism 101
    CPH, 2010

  4. @Nicholas #5

    I think we are close. 🙂 There is a huge difference between “Baba O’Riley” by the Who and the blasphemous lyrics of “Psalm 69” by Ministry. We wouldn’t want to condemn “Baba O’Riley” because someone like Bob Larson quotes “Psalm 69” and then condemns all of rock music based upon their blasphemy.

  5. @PastorBradford #1

    That testimony was riddled with basic theological errors, but I definitely do not blame the interviewee. He is young in the faith.

    It is bothersome that the NYG officials would use that as a promotional though. They are ignorant of Biblical Christianity, when they should not be. But they drink from the poison well of pelagian, enthusiastic American “evangelicalism” and seeker-drivenism.

  6. @Nicholas

    I suppose that was my primary point. My congregation spent $15,000 to send my youth there. I hope this wasn’t typical of the teaching.

  7. @ #50 “The whole song is less suggestive/explicit than Ezekiel 23. which gets even clearer when you read the NIV.”

    Ezekiel 23:1-41 is an allegory. We must understand what an allegory is. It means that God will take something that you understand, and He will expect you to substitute from the allegorical way of saying it in picture words into a meaning that He is trying to get across.

    Phillip B. Giessler
    For Adults Only–Rated X
    Ezekiel 23:1-41

  8. I have never liked Pietism. I have never liked people who tried to wear their good works on their shoulders and be a goody two-shoes of look what a nice boy am I.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    Address to Springfield Laity on St. Louis Seminary Problems
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    February 6, 1974

  9. @“LC-MS Quotes” #10

    Yes. Yes it is 🙂 It is an allegory. And it is an allegory that more suggestive/explicit than the lyrics of song – a song which speaks to a similar (though fictional) story.

  10. @ #41 “If you don’t want to listen to AC/DC (or any rock music), then don’t.”

    I like all music except hard rock. I hope you young people don’t mind. It’s just too loud! It’s too penetrating.

    Robert D. Preus
    What the Bible Says About the Bible
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    December 1979

  11. To try to educate myself, I just watched a couple of AC/DC YouTube videos.   They don’t seem blameless and pure to me.  I’m not condemning all rock music.  I enjoy Lost and Found for example.

    Comment 35, pg 1, makes a lot of sense IMO.

  12. @ #14 “They don’t seem blameless and pure to me.”


    Rock music isn’t the only music that communicates to us–all music does. However, as author Steve Lawhead admits in Rock Reconsidered (1981), “…add to this phenomenon the rapidly degenerating subject matter dealt with in the lyrics of most rock, and a distinctly ugly and malicious animal emerges. An animal capable of devouring or at least maiming or scarring its keepers” (pp. 106, 107). We need to ask ourselves: What ideas do rock lyrics promote?

    Why Knock Rock?
    Daniel Peters, Steve Peters, Cher Merrill

  13. John Rixe :
    To try to educate myself, I just watched a couple of AC/DC YouTube videos.   They don’t seem blameless and pure to me.  I’m not condemning all rock music.  I enjoy Lost and Found for example.
    Comment 35, pg 1, makes a lot of sense IMO.


    Have you read Bo Giertz’s The Hammer of God? If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The subject matter of Giertz’s book is pertinent to the discussion going on here.

    Another great read, also on topic, is Harold Senkbeil’s Sanctification: Christ in Action.

    I have found both books to be immensely helpful.

  14. sanctification. 1. In a wider sense, everything the Holy Spirit does for man and in man to bring him to faith and final salvation on the basis of Christ’s work of redemption. This includes calling by the Gospel, regeneration, sanctification, and preservation in the Christian faith. 2. In a narrower sense, the operation of the Holy Spirit enabling the Christian to live a God-pleasing life, overcome temptation, and do good works (1 Thess. 4:3).

    Walter Lieder
    Lutheran Dictionary
    CPH, 1952

    sanctification. The spiritual growth that follows justification by grace through faith in Christ. Sanctification is God’s work through His Means of Grace: Word and Sacraments.

    Lutheranism 101
    CPH, 2010

  15. @Jim Pierce #16

    I read Hammer of God but it was many years ago.  Help me relate it again to:

    “Nothing wrong with listening to secular/”worldly” music, but I do believe that we should keep it clean, which is in accord with Phil 4:8” 


  16. @ #41 “Listening to rock music is not wrong, or even ‘unChristian.’”
    @ #18 “Help me relate it again to: ‘Nothing wrong with listening to secular/’worldly’ music, but I do believe that we should keep it clean, which is in accord with Phil 4:8.'”

    Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams, with reassurance, that whatever you are doing is OK. You are OK. This is why something like same-sex marriage was inevitable. In a sensate culture at the point of death, pleasure may come in a variety of forms—overeating, shopping, even deviant sexual behavior; or it may come in the form of simple acceptance.

    Same-sex marriage screams acceptance to the vast majority of Americans who do not personally experience same-sex attraction, but who want public reassurance that whatever they want to do—whether to consume deviant pornography, or to trade in their wives over “irreconcilable differences,” or live in deliberately childless marriages and accumulate toys—is OK. You are what you are because that’s how you were born. And any challenge or restraint on what you want to do, on what pleases you, cannot be tolerated.

    Aaron D. Wolf
    “Hell-Bent: Why Gay Marriage Was Inevitable”
    Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture
    July 2013

    Perhaps just as dangerous as rock’s humanistic answers to life’s serious questions is the lighthearted, schlock-rock approach that commercialism brings to pop music. Glib responses and easy answers presented through the rock music format can be very misleading to impressionable adolescents, for they paint a picture of life that simply doesn’t exist. “Commercialism can work in music just as it works with soda pop,” says Steve Lawhead, “by distorting the music’s importance” (Rock Reconsidered, 1981). Its power to move people to action and to change opinion is enormous.

    Why Knock Rock?
    Dan Peters, Steve Peters, Cher Merrill

  17. @John Rixe #18

    I’m sorry John, but I don’t have the time to do that for you. It might be good to pick up the book and reread it and get the other book I recommend. One thing I will say, quickly, is that we don’t look at the world, or ourselves, trying to find that which is “blameless and pure.” Philippians 4:8 is not a ruler we apply to the world trying to find that which is “blameless and pure.” You’re never going to find that anywhere other than in Christ Jesus. He alone is blameless and pure and He imputes His righteousness to His own.

    Now, I am going to enjoy the rare Seattle sunshine. 🙂

  18. @ #20 “Philippians 4:8 is not a ruler we apply to the world trying to find that which is ‘blameless and pure.’ You’re never going to find that anywhere other than in Christ Jesus. He alone is blameless and pure and He imputes His righteousness to His own.”

    Our Calvinist friends speak of rules. That’s not a very helpful approach. It’s better to speak of models.

    Kurk Erik Marquart
    “Christian Wive’s Seminar”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    June 1, 1976

  19. @Jim Pierce #20

    You are confusing me.

    “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life”     Philippians 2:14-16

  20. I think I remember the right Hammer of God reference.

    The young pastor has been converted to true Christianity after years of rationalistic, clueless religious education, and has swung so far into it that he overzealously starts to criticize ornamentation. Young women of the parish put aside their modest jewelry or face withering criticism from him and others who listen to him. IOW, he swings into Pietism.

    Later he learns the dangers of that path–experiencing both self-righteous, false pride, and despair at the impossibility of complete self-driven holiness. And finally he realizes the full sweetness of the Gospel, and the true value of absolution.

    The book illustrates the attraction, the good points, and the pitfalls of Pietism extremely well.

  21. Don’t see the relevance to modest jewelry.  Please check out a couple of AC/DC videos. 🙂

    Carol, there’s been a serious plane crash at SFO.

  22. Oh no, I will look for it online. Praying. Thank God my daughter and others from got back safely from the Youth Gathering last night. Update: Horrible. Capacity 450. Load 290, reportedly. Crashed and smoking on the runway, with slides out for exit.

  23. @John Rixe #24
    Hi John,
    I am not all that familiar with AC/DC so I’m not entering the argument pro or con, just trying to explain the Hammer of God reference — it criticizes overdoing abstinence from various worldly things. I don’t have the personal knowledge to have an opinion on whether criticizing AC/DC is false piety or necessitated by evil.

  24. @John Rixe #22

    I am sorry you are confused. You could discuss this all with your pastor, which I recommend. Also, keep reading the Philippians reference you provide… “holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” God gives life through Word and Sacrament. We don’t become “blameless and pure” by observing laws. We are “blameless and pure” because Christ is such. His righteousness is imputed to us. Does that mean we give sin dominion over our lives? Nope, or as Paul wrote, “God forbid!”

    Still confused? Talk with your pastor.

  25. @Jim Pierce #27

    I’ll do that, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think AC/DC performances are morally neutral and nifty for the kids.   It’s not complicated:

    “Nothing wrong with listening to secular/”worldly” music, but I do believe that we should keep it clean, which is in accord with Phil 4:8″   False piety?

  26. @ #20 Philippians 4:8 is not a ruler we apply to the world trying to find that which is ‘blameless and pure.’ You’re never going to find that anywhere other than in Christ Jesus. He alone is blameless and pure and He imputes His righteousness to His own.”

    Correct. Then, as sinner-saints, the Christian walks in the Spirit. “But if we belong to Christ Jesus, we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 AAT

    When it comes to making thoughtful decisions about rock music lyrics or any other matter of life, the Christian recalls the teaching of St. Paul: “It is permissible for us to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. It is permissible for us to do anything, but not everything encourages growth.” I Corinthians 10:23 AAT

    The first two things that St. Paul gets straight with converts to Christianity are: 1) no more idolatry, but singular devotion to the one true God revealed in Jesus Christ; 2) sexual immorality and sexual purity issues. Of all the things that Paul would need to address to Gentile converts, that’s number 2. How often is that number 2 emphasized in our cultural context? Never. Never. I’ve never seen it yet given the kind of weight and emphasis that Paul does in the New Testament. That’s why we are in the situation we are currently in, because people in the Church are basically uneducated about the significance of sexual purity for a life of holiness before our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Robert A. J. Gagnon
    “Paul and Homosexual Practice”
    The Ruth Institute
    June 1, 2013

    Many of the rock music lyrics are incompatible with the New Testament teaching Gagnon describes. Immorality is encouraged. The Christian listener is not encouraged to “fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and each love and honor his spouse.” Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism

    @ #27 “Still confused? Talk with your pastor.”

    What if the pastor is a “Pietist” and holds to the position that much of the rock music should be avoided?

  27. @“LC-MS Quotes” #29
    What if the pastor is a “Pietist” and holds to the position that much of the rock music should be avoided?

    Then I suppose John better “clean up” his MP3s before visiting with his pastor. One can never be too sure what double entendre laden lyrics one is carrying around, right? 😉

  28. @ #41 (p. 1) “Listening to rock music is not wrong, or even ‘unchristian.'”

    The concerns of a previous generation of Lutherans…


    Do we consider dancing a sin, or is it one of the indifferent things?

    Or shall we differentiate and make a distinction between the dance in the home and the dance in the public dance halls? …

    We do not say that in every dance the Christian boy, girl, man, or woman commits carnal sin. We have never endorsed the wholesale condemnation of this form of social amusement. … It would be absurd to place a general condemnation upon everything that is called a dance. In the discussion of this subject we have time and again said with great precision and great plainness exactly what we mean when we condemn the modern dance.

    The Courier, organ of the Slovak Luther League, in its issue of September 1947 submits a discussion entitled “Shall We Dance?” It lists the objections made by serious-minded people to popular types of dancing.

    “One of the many objections which have been raised against the modern dance is that the couples indulge in an embrace which would be frowned on under any other circumstances, except by persons engaged or married to each other. We will admit that the standards of morality have changed in the past half century, that customs which shocked society years ago are perfectly acceptable now. But does the embracing of men and women who are not engaged or married come under the classification of custom or morality? Custom is something which changes according to conditions and time, but morality, the principle of right and wrong, does not change. How would you classify the embrace?

    “The other objections are quite familiar, too: the promiscuity at dances (meaning that any person may dance with any other person regardless of his character or views on morality), the frequent accompaniment of liquor, the suggestive music and rhythms, and the possibility of leading one’s partner into sin, or vice versa. There are dances where some of these conditions do not obtain, and those must be judged accordingly.”

    The writer in the Courier declares that “no blanket condemnation of the dance can be made, however, because all dances are not alike. Every dance or type of dance has to be judged by its peculiar characteristics. It would be just as bad for the youth counselor to call something a sin which is not a sin as it would be to label something as right which is sinful. We should not be so blinded by the word ‘dance’ that we would be willing to condemn even innocent types of dancing; nor should we be so prejudiced in favor of it that we would be willing to approve of dancing which corrupts the souls of those who indulge in it.” …

    Mr. Holt, in his tract Is Dancing a Sin? reprints these words from the lips of a woman dancer, quoted by Rev. Elderdice: “The dance became to me, and whomsoever danced with me, one lingering sweet and purely sensual pleasure, where heart beat against heart and eyes looked burning words which lips dared not speak. If my partner failed to arouse in me these passions, I did not dance with him the second time.” Ex-dancing Master Prof. A. T. Sullivan says: “Waltzing is the spur of lust.” T. A. Faulkner, former proprietor of the Los Angeles Dancing Academy, says: “It is a startling fact, but a fact nevertheless, that two thirds of the girls who enter dancing schools are ruined before the year is out. And three fourths of the outcasts had a man’s arm about them for the first time at a social dance. Of 200 brothel inmates whom I talked with personally, 163 regarded the dancing school and the ballroom as the direct cause of their downfall.” …

    The Christian Beacon, edited and owned by Dr. Carl McIntire, said editorially in 1939 (issue of August 10) that a modernistic preacher of the Presbyterian Church lately was addressing an adult class on “Marriage and the Home.” Of this the report says: “A wave of surprised laughter greeted Rev. Davis’ statement to the effect that dancing is a clean, frank sex mechanism for persons who have not found their mates. It should be encouraged, he said, but not for married people.”

    Commenting upon this statement, the editor of the Christian Beacon condemns the practice of giving intimate, detailed sex education to groups meeting in public and then continues: “This Presbyterian leader does not like to see married couples dance but thinks that unmarried couples should indulge in such a ‘clean, frank sex mechanism’ in order to find out their mate–and all this in the name of the Church! It should be enough to disgust (and it certainly does just this) many Christian people.” Dr. J. T. Mueller comments on this in the Concordia Theological Monthly: “While dancing is by no means ‘clean,’ it is certainly a very obvious ‘sex mechanism,’ even brutally ‘frank’ at times. By calling it that, this Modernist dance advocate has fitly described just why it is so alarmingly dangerous, and why Christian people, both individually and collectively as a Church, must raise a warning voice against it. Those who claim that dancing has nothing to do with sex are simply not speaking the truth.”

    Theodore Graebner
    The Borderland of Right & Wrong
    CPH, 1956

    Does much of the modern rock music qualify as “suggestive music and rhythms?”

    May we adapt the Courier’s statement and make a proper application to much of the modern rock music? “We should not be so blinded by the word [‘rock music’] that we would be willing to condemn even innocent types of [rock music]; nor should we be so prejudiced in favor of it that we would be willing to approve of [rock music] which corrupts the souls of those who indulge in it.”

    May we adapt J. T. Mueller’s statement and make a proper application to much of the modern rock music? “Those who claim that [rock music] has nothing to do with sex are simply not speaking the truth.”

  29. @ #32 “ Maybe they’re not so bad. At least they are vested.”

    The surplice is a garment worn over the cassock. It might be of interest to note that the somewhat widespread adoption of the surplice-stole combination in Lutheran circles–for which there is no Lutheran precedent–represents an importation of nineteenth-century Anglican use.

    Lee A. Maxwell
    The Altar Guild Manual
    Lutheran Service Book Edition
    CPH, 2008

  30. @PastorBradford #9
    $15K. Wow. That, by itself, is a *huge* problem with the NYG. Send your kids on a CTS-sponsored and taught trip to the Luther-lands or the Holy Lands for that much. But I’m discovering bit by bit that “mass event”–20K youth making a lot of noise in one place–is the key.

    That makes me think, though… How many of you remember the old major metropolitan (or not even *major*) Reformation or Lutheran Hour Rallies back in the 3 post-WWII decades? You’d get 20K folks to such things, and there was definitely that “mass event” sort of “aura” to it. I vaguely remember one or two in Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis in the late 70’s. The more things change…., maybe?

  31. For the record, I am the “Aaron Wolf” who wrote the “Hell-Bent” article cited twice above. It was not about rock music but about “marriage equality.”

    Randomly: The entire paragraph (above) that begins with “Advertising is based on one thing” is me (ADW) quoting Don Draper from Mad Men. In my published piece, the quotation is indented. The same reasoning used here by the anonymous “Quotes” would apply to Mad Men, by which I mean that it would not be worth citing because it is worldly like rock music. I grew up in Baptist fundamentalism, which made all of those arguments against rock music (really anything with a discernible syncopated rhythm) and promoted some of the same books that “Quotes” is citing. I do not endorse those arguments wholesale.

    Is modern popular music a product of the “Sensate Culture”—a term borrowed from my mentor, Harold O.J. Brown and which I use in the article? Yes, of course. But so is mass democracy. So is our current popular understanding of “equality” and the entire language of “rights.” We are thinking like the IFB’s if we focus narrowly on a few things like “rock music,” as if we can avoid those things and then escape the Sensate Culture.

    I have plenty of very negative things to say about the NYG, but my beef with the music is not that it is “rock,” whatever that now means. (I think I would use the word “lame” to describe the videos I’ve seen.) It is not the taint of “rock” that is so alarming about the National Youth Gathering. It is the specter of Spener and his pious desires.

    And those same Spenerisms are on display in the Quotes from (of all people here!) Carl McIntire.

  32. All this talk of rock-n-roll and pietism really cracks me up. I was at the NYG. My review will be coming shortly. P.S. One of the text messages I sent to a few pastors while at one of the mass events:

    “Hey, they stole the red star (of the solar federation) from Rush 2112 for the Live Love[d] theme on the big screens in the Alamodome. What’s next–the crying pastor is going to fly off into infinity aboard the ‘Rocinante’ after giving his testimony?”

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